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Parties quiet amid talk of Kheng-Sokha meeting

George Edgar, the EU ambassador to Cambodia (left), and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong shake hands during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh.
George Edgar, the EU ambassador to Cambodia (left), and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong shake hands during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Parties quiet amid talk of Kheng-Sokha meeting

Officials from the ruling and opposition parties yesterday remained tight-lipped amid rumours of a meeting between Interior Minister Sar Kheng and CNRP acting president Kem Sokha on Tuesday night.

According to local media reports, the pair discussed the current political stalemate and options to allow for self-exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy to return home.

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said he was aware the pair had met, but offered no further details.

“I just heard a little that [both leaders] met for a moment. What they talked about, I do not know,” Eysan said.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he had “no information” about the talks and gave no specifics about potential negotiations.

Citing safety concerns, the CNRP is boycotting the parliament, after pro-government protesters, on the heels of a rally calling for Sokha’s sacking as the parliament’s first vice president, gang-bashed two opposition lawmakers outside the assembly on October 26.

Three soldiers have been charged for the attack, while Sokha was subsequently ousted from his position by the CPP.

Meanwhile, Rainsy, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity, remains in Europe.

He faces a two-year prison sentence for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008 by alleging he was responsible for deaths at a Khmer Rouge prison camp in the 1970s.

The 2011 conviction in that case, long dormant and thought expunged, re-emerged on November 13.

Since then, he’s been hit with two more lawsuits: a defamation claim by National Assembly President Heng Samrin and a summons linked to the case of imprisoned opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour.

Last month, the European Parliament endorsed a motion submitted by Rainsy condemning the government and calling for all “politically motivated” cases to be dropped.

During the preceding debate, some European parliamentarians called for a re-evaluation of the European Union’s more than $400 million aid package to Cambodia.

Yesterday, however, newly appointed EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar moved to assure Namhong the EU wasn’t considering aid cuts, the foreign minister told reporters following the meeting.

Speaking after their meeting, Edgar said only that he was concerned about the political situation but declined to elaborate on the issue.

Namhong, however, reiterated that the oustings of Sokha and Rainsy, who was also stripped of his lawmaker status, were lawful.

“The opposition can still work without Sam Rainsy; the absence of a person cannot take away the freedom of expression, democracy and multiparty policy from Cambodia.”

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